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 A grim reminder for older riders
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Advanced Member
576 Posts

Central Coast, CA



Posted - 07/16/2018 :  2:10 PM                       Like
Last Thursday near Salem, Oregon, three riders--ages 69, 75, and 90--were killed in three separate crashes in an 8-hour period within a distance of 15 miles. The Salem Statesman Journal covered the three incidents well in this story, which also includes advice for motorcyclists from Team Oregon, the state's training provider.

I'm in that age range, and I expect that many other visitors to this site are too. This tragic coincidence should remind us that we are considerably more vulnerable than younger riders in the event of a crash (even if we do pride ourselves on our ability to anticipate and avoid problems). A few years ago, I posted a thread, Vulnerability of older riders in motorcycle crashes, supported by data from California crashes. More recently I have confirmed that result with data from other states and from US DOT estimates: motorcyclists age 55+ are 50% more likely to die if we crash than riders under 25.

The three crashes by themselves weren't unusual, and they don't fit the media-concocted stereotype of older riders crashing--poor vision or reactions or inability to handle today's big bikes. Crashes similar to these involving riders of all ages happen all the time.

In one (links are to Google Maps showing the rider's point of view), a motorcyclist from northern Washington state was approaching a right curve on a state highway at a point where another road intersects tangentially. He apparently continued onto the tangent, misjudging the speed of the truck coming around the curve in the opposite direction.

In the other two, local riders collided with oncoming left-turners. Both were on straight, level, two-lane, semi-rural roads, the vehicle turning into a driveway rather than at a cross-street. One occurred when a middle-aged woman in a Prius turned into a Little League field on a road with speed limit 45mph. In the other, a young man in an SUV turned into a produce market on a road with speed limit 55mph.

The left-turner crashes both occurred in a bad (though not worst) case--on a narrow road at relatively high speed. With little lateral separation, motion camouflage makes it difficult for a driver to judge the speed of an oncoming motorcycle. Traveling along the line of sight, it's just a stationary point in the distance, not growing noticeably in size, so in a quick glance the driver may not recognized the bike as a threat. Then, when the car encroaches into the motorcycle's path, speed and lack of lateral space cushion can make a collision unavoidable.

For more on the phenomenon of motion camouflage, see this old post of mine on the Motorcycle Consumer News forum. Duncan MacKillop, The Brit riding instructor who brought it to the attention of the motorcycling community, later made a video demonstrating the weave technique he described in the Bike article I summarized in my post.

To improve chances of avoiding a crash if you aren't seen, move laterally away from the threat on approach. This technique was proposed by James Ouellet, one of Hurt's co-authors, and advocated by the late Larry Grodsky. I reviewed it in a post on this forum Looking for a technical paper. However, on a two-lane road, a rider has little space to distance himself from the threat. That makes slowing down the crucial preparation. Dropping speed from 60 to 30 cuts braking distance down by 75%. That hundred feet or so could prevent a serious crash.

We're about halfway through the summer (time flies, don't it?) with another couple months of prime motorcycling to go. Hope you have some great riding ahead, but keep your active scan going and be prepared to react even if you're just going down the block.

James R. Davis
Male Administrator
17333 Posts

Houston, TX


GoldWing 1500

Posted - 07/16/2018 :  3:18 PM Follow poster on Twitter  Join poster on Facebook as Friend  
Dan, you post excellent articles and your facts are impeccable. Thank you.

With my experience with dozens of legal contests involving motorcycle 'accidents' I rarely get involved where death is the outcome. Indeed, most of us riders seem to accept death as a possibility, yet we ride anyway, but few of us have seen the far worse outcomes or at least we tend to ignore or dismiss them as being relevant to ourselves.

Paralysis, severe nerve damage, gross disfigurement, brain damage, amputations, burns - these are REAL possibilities for all of us and in my opinion, deserve thoughtful consideration along with the possibility of death.

Surviving spouses and other family members SUFFER (not just being inconvenienced) for years - lifetimes - when one of us forgets to be prepared or on the defensive out there.

This is not an appeal to not ride. Just a heads up to broaden your awareness.
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Male Standard Member
118 Posts

Arch Cape, Oregon


R 1200 RT

Posted - 07/17/2018 :  9:51 PM
Those three accidents hit close to home for me as the area is not all that far from my house - a couple hours ride. I have a friend that lives in the area and visit him from time to time and another friend that lives another short ride past the area. I had lunch with the one friend and dinner with the other a couple weeks back while starting out on a longer ride.

The area has many rural roads that make for enjoyable riding. I try and stay out of cities as much as possible. This is a good reminder that having "left turner" cross your path is not limited to a city intersection.

I wear a high viz vest and have some bright Clearwater LED lights added to the bike so hopefully that helps out on being seen. As DataDan says, it is still hard to judge speed of an oncoming bike. So a good reminder to us all to temper speed a bit and be ready to stop or swerve if necessary.

Though we will likely never find out I would like to know if the two cars mentioned did not see the oncoming bikes or saw them and misjudged speed when the turned left.
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Advanced Member
576 Posts

Central Coast, CA



Posted - 07/19/2018 :  9:59 AM
Good points about injuries, Jim. That classification covers a lot of ground, from "complaint of pain" to the kind of trauma you mention with its devastating impact on families.

Onthebeach, in addition to the "passive" visibility measures of bright lights and bright colors, I add "active" measures such as adjusting speed and position, and also the weave demonstrated by Duncan MacKillop in the video I linked. It seems to get attention and an immediate response from drivers on a threatening trajectory.

This news may be unwelcome, but there was another fatal crash near Salem Tuesday, which took the life of a 62-year-old rider. In this right curve (again, a Google Maps link with the rider's point of view), the motorcyclist ran wide and hit an oncoming pickup. This is a much too common kind of crash that affects riders of all ages.

For info, Marion County, Oregon, had 14 motorcyclist deaths in the past 5 years (2012-2016), so 4 in 6 days is extraordinary.
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Advanced Member
6922 Posts

Meridian, ID


XR650L, 1090 Adv R

Posted - 07/19/2018 :  3:36 PM
Crash number one is similar to the last time (around five years ago) I had anything like a close call with another vehicle. It was less obvious in my case that the road turned right instead of going straight, since there were no lines on the narrower road, and the car coming the other way was paying better attention.

All the rest, including #4 are in situations that I claim to know how to avoid. But since moving to a different state, I have to be more aware of the slightly different driving habits where I am now. There are more opportunities of left turners crossing my path on the average Idaho road than there were on the average California road. At least in the more highly populated areas.

I also have to regularly remind myself that it definitely takes longer to heal, so more than ever I want to avoid doing things that require "healing". I managed to smack my shin on a footpeg back when I still owned two motorcycles and was getting off of one too close to the other. It was a much worse "injury" than it should have been and took over a month to heal. And the mark looks like it will never go away.

Getting old is not for sissies. Although going out at age 90 in a motorcycle crash sounds slightly better to me than dying of old age - which I got to experience first hand with my mother about two years ago.
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